Our Stories Poster. Credit- Manchester City of Literature and Manchester Poetry Library

Manchester City of Literature celebrates writing from the LGBTQ+ community

Writers, storytellers, and members of the LGBTQ+ community gathered at the Manchester Poetry Library for the Our Stories conference to celebrate Queer literature.

Our Stories is a conference held by Manchester City of Literature celebrating LGBTQ+ stories, novels, and publishing. The event celebrates the Rainbow Library Project in Manchester which aims to create YA novels and children’s books that include LGBTQ+ identities and experiences.

Becky Swain, director of the Manchester Poetry library said, ““We are honoured to host the Manchester day as part of Our Stories. Working in collaboration with the brilliant Manchester City of Literature team, it has been a joyful day of sharing stories from LGBTQI+ writers and their experience of publishing. We’re making progress, but there is so much more to be done to enable writers to tell their inspiring and important stories and get their work out in the world”

Our Stories conference

Writers Bria Cotton and Weng-U Pun and artist, performer, and writer Finch Murphy shared their experiences as queer writers in Manchester. Part of the Rainbow Library Project, they retold childhood stories that resonated with them from a queer perspective.

Writers of the Rainbow Library in conversation at the Our Stories conference: Finch Murphy, Briar Cotton, and Weng-U Pun. Credit -Makenna Ali

Finch wrote a children’s horror retelling the story of Pinocchio. They said: “It is a queer reimagining of Pinocchio as an intrinsically autistic and non-binary character.”

Weng-U Pun retold the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. In her story, she imagined the Giant’s family as Chinese and celebrating the Chinese New Year.

“I wanted to retell my story through the perspective of a Chinese person. It was special to identity and me,” she said.

Bria retold Little Red Riding Hood and wrote Little Red as being non-binary.

She said: “I wanted to explore that part of myself as presenting an identity. I step in and out of my queerness.”

Bria’s story focuses on the community values of queerness and the romance of it.

At the event there were also local LGBTQ+ small businesses with pop-up shops. Bittertats owned by queer artist Alex Tillbrook and Hollystrations by Holly Pittaway copywriter, artist, and owner of Hollystrations, who said: “From my perspective, Manchester is really accepting and diverse, there are a lot of events and people that are very supportive.”

Pop-up shops from local Queer-owned businesses at the ‘Our Stories’ conference. Credit – Makenna Ali

Manchester the city of literature

Cities of Literature was launched in 2004 by UNESCO and part of the Creative Cities Network. It develops collaborative creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

Manchester is a city of literature because it is home to four historic libraries, 23 public libraries and multiple independent libraries. There are two universities and two writing schools and more than 40 arts and culture festivals, including the Manchester Literature Festival.

The city is home to a multitude of writers and poets including Anthony Burgess, Danielle Jawando, John Cooper Clarke, Malika Booker.

The future of LGBTQ+ literature and publishing

Bria said she was excited for the future: “There is more of us to tell these stories. We have to carry a double burden of ensuring these stories aren’t censored. We still have a fight but it is a better world we live in.”

Finch said: “I think this is a fight that can be won. I like to be confident that queerness in general will be free and accepted.”